The Iranian-backed Houthi militias are seeking to mislead public opinion about the number of COVID-19 cases and death toll to protect their own best interests in the areas they control. Therefore, they undermine efforts of World Health Organization’s staff working in Yemen.
Reuters said on May 11 that the World Health Organization (WHO) had ordered its staff out of Houthi rebel-held areas in war-torn Yemen, a move sources said aimed to pressure the group to be more transparent about suspected coronavirus cases.
A WHO directive issued late on Saturday notified staff in Sanaa, the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, the northern province of Saada, and the central province of Ibb that “all movements, meetings or any other activity” for staff in those areas were paused until further notice.
The WHO order was issued because of “credible threats and perceived risks which could have an impact on staff security”, the agency said, adding operations were not suspended.
“We are competing for resources and supplies in the global market – and a country’s ‘priority status’ in terms of who receives what for COVID-19 is directly linked to how many cases are in country and the need – it is the numbers,” it said.
The UN has “systematically for weeks now” advised on case declaration and reporting, but the decision to do so rests with local authorities, the WHO added.
The WHO says it fears COVID-19 could rip through Yemen as the population has some of the lowest levels of immunity to disease compared with other countries. Minimal testing capacity has added to concerns.
On May 7, Yemen’s legitimate government warned of the Houthis’ policy of hiding information about the number of COVID-19 cases, undermining efforts to rein in the pandemic in Yemen.
Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani said in a number of tweets that reports from Sanaa and Houthi rebel-held areas indicate a catastrophe for millions of citizens as the militias are hiding the true situation.
Al-Iryani called on the United Nations and the WHO to urgently intervene and pressure the Houthi militias to reveal data about the confirmed cases of coronavirus there.